Read live blogging of this at Washblog, Washington state’s progressive answer to Kos (and Booman, heh!) – a Scoop-based community blog.

Shortly before noon today, the Washington state Senate passed HB 2661, 25-23.  Just after noon, it was received by the House (which passed the bill last week) and the amended version was passed 63-37, sending it to the Governor’s desk to be signed before the sun goes down today. Update [2006-1-27 17:7:6 by switzerblog]: I’ve just learned the Governor will actually sign the bill on Tuesday morning at 10:00am.  HB 2661 amends the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Commission to protect any sexual orientation from discrimination in employment, housing, insurance, credit and other public services.

This bill has been introduced to the Washington Legislature every year since 1977, famously championed by Representative Cal Anderson.  Representative Anderson succumbed to AIDS in 1995, and the torch was passed to Representative Ed Murray, who fought every year until his final victory today.  We are all so proud of everyone who worked on this bill, and know Cal Anderson is smiling down on Ed Murray today.
You can read more live coverage of this historic day at The Stranger’s blog, Slog.  Eli Sanders has done a great job with this story today.

We have fought so long and hard on this bill with little success against the closed-minded, skittish and plain old bigots in our Legislature, but last year was historic in that we came within one vote in the Senate of passing the bill.  Many of you will remember Microsoft’s role in the imbroglio surrounding HB 1515 and Reverend Ken Hutcherson (who we thank for creating the final blowback making today possible).   (I want to add and stress that Microsoft did the right thing in reversing course last year, and joined many corporations in forcefully advocating for the bill’s passage this year)

Before this session started, Senator Bill Finkbeiner (R-45th) stepped down as Minority Leader and announced that he would cross the aisle and support this bill, becoming the 25th vote.  This took tremendous courage to break party ranks, as the Republicans are vehemently opposed to even the most basic fairness for gays.  His courage in voting for the bill today (he previously voted for it as a Democrat, when he served in the state House) is to be commended.

I close with Ed Murray’s words, quoted on Slog:

Anticipating passage by the senate today, I asked Murray last night how it would feel to see the bill finally become law.

“Tomorrow, I’ll be able to say, `Promises kept, mission accomplished,'” Murray told me. “And not just to Cal, but to a lot of people I’ve known, who worked on it and went on to other things in their lives. And to a lot of people who are dead…

“When it passes, no matter what happens, there is no turning back. There is no taking away from this moment. A group of elected legislators, many of whom it’s a tough road for, did the courageous thing and legislated that discrimination against gays and lesbians and transgendered people is wrong. And nothing will take away from that, no matter what they try.”

Words fail me.  Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to finally pass this bill and bring down legally sanctioned discrimination.

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